Chemical Exposure and the Affect it may have on the Intox 5000 by Collin County DWI lawyer Troy Burleson

By Collin, Dallas and Denton county DWI attorney Troy Burleson

To understand how chemical exposure might affect the results from an Intoxilyzer 5000, one must first have a basic understanding of how the Intoxilyzer works. The basic operation of the Intox 5000 is infrared spectroscopy combined with a computer program hat converts a measure in decreased light o units of measurement of alcohol (gm/210 liters). The machine does this by measuring infrared light in the sample chamber of the machine. When a subject’s breath is introduced into the sample chamber, a photo detector measures and decrease in light emitted from on side of the chamber to the other side. The amount of the decrease in light is then entered into a computer program designed to convert the decreased light into grams of alcohol and the converted into an expression of grams per 210 liters of air.

I know that sounds like a lot, but it is really quite simple. A light bulb on one end of the sample chamber send light to the other end. Molecules in the chamber (supposedly alcohol from your breath) will prevent some of the light from going all the way across the chamber. The difference is then computed by a highly guarded computer program to determine your breath/alcohol concentration.

It is important to understand which molecular bonds the Intox 5000 is looking for in its analysis. Specifically, it is looking for the bonds that are between the carbon (C) and three hydrogen (H) atoms (CH3). Therefore, if a compound contains carbon and hydrogen atoms that combine into a CH3 bonding pattern (like that of alcohol), that compound will potentially be recognized as “alcohol” molecules within the sample chamber. If this is the case, the breath test will produce a result that is above the actual alcohol concentration in the person’s blood. Some other compounds that have CH3 bonding patterns similar to alcohol are:

The chemicals listed above can be found in everyday life in products such as: nail polish remover, auto body paint, petrochemical products, floor refinishers and strippers, solvents (home and garage).

To affect a breath test, a person must be involved with the chemical source long enough to have had it introduced into their bodies. These molecules may be absorbed through the skin and lungs if sufficient exposure occurs. Typically, people with jobs such as 1) a floor refinisher, 2) paint and body person, 3) manicurist and 4) computer technician whose job it is to clean microprocessors with acetone may have chemical exposure that might affect the result of a breath test.

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